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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

If You Read Nothing Else About Russian Persecution of LGBT People, Sochi, the Olympics, and the Boycott of Russian Vodka...

Posted by on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 6:36 AM


Had Putin reignited Russia's abuse of its Jewish citizens, it would have been unthinkable for the IOC to issue a statement suggesting that non-Russian Jewish athletes, pundits, and spectators could go have a blast in Sochi because we'd be spared the anti-Semitic violence sweeping the rest of the country. There's just no way. The American Jewish community and the Obama administration would have (rightly) enacted trade sanctions instantly. There would have been no statement from the State Department like the one issued the same day as the IOC announcement saying that it does not support a boycott of the games.

So how does a pogrom against LGBT people and our allies pass muster in 2013?

Twenty-first century queers aren't going to wait quietly for a diplomatic solution while each month more of us are tortured and more of us are murdered. Last month, killers reportedly stabbed and trampled a man to death before putting his body in his car and setting it on fire. Just weeks before, 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovoi's friends murdered him because he mentioned he was gay while they were getting drunk, according to the BBC. They raped him with beer bottles before smashing his skull in with rocks.

We've been here before. And we know the power of economic sanctions and boycotts. When Congress finally came around in 1986 and passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (overriding President Ronald Reagan's veto) that banned all new trade and investments in South Africa, other countries followed suit, South Africa's economy went into free fall. Five years later, its Parliament voted to repeal the legal framework for apartheid.

So it's no surprise that Stolichnaya, which is freaking out over the boycott, is running a disinformation campaign where it tries to convince the public that it's not actually Russian vodka because it's currently distilled and bottled in Latvia. Nice try, guys, but the label on the bottle says "Russian vodka" (three times), you're owned by Yuri Scheffler, one of the 100 richest men in Russia, your vodka is made from Russian products, and you've taken great pains to market Stoli as the iconic Russian vodka.

NBC Universal, which has paid $4 billion dollars for the rights to cover the Olympics from 2014 through 2020, has also been squirmy. Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin's letter (pdf) asking them to include news of Russia's human rights violations alongside their standard Olympics coverage has elicited a hasty if mealy-mouthed response from the network saying that it will "provide coverage of Russia's anti-gay laws if the controversial measures surface as an issue during the upcoming Winter Olympics". In short, they're punting for now and hoping we'll all forget about it.

That's not going to happen. Go read the rest of Nancy Goldstein's call to action in the Guardian. And if you have time for one more piece—and you do—go and read "Boycotts 101: Why the gay boycott of Russian vodka is already working" at Americablog. And over at Huffington Post, Mike Signorile offers up five other ripe targets for boycotters.


Comments (46) RSS

Newest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I do not give a damn how nice Russia will be towards gay Olympians. The second the Olympics leave, the Russians will make up for lost time and attack their own gays double.
This is NOT about politics! It is about saving lives.
Move the Olympics OUT of Russia!!! Vancouver is ready.
Posted by Le Newyorkais on August 14, 2013 at 9:31 PM · Report this
Helix 45
All the Russians I know who live in America say they don't want to go back, ever.

It is an awful country.
Posted by Helix on August 8, 2013 at 9:41 AM · Report this
sissoucat 44
@43 :-)
Posted by sissoucat on August 6, 2013 at 1:02 PM · Report this
lolorhone 43
@42: That was quite sassy there, sissoucat. Accurate and sassy.
Posted by lolorhone on August 5, 2013 at 11:52 PM · Report this
sissoucat 42
O/T @27 You only wish you were with Ophian...
Posted by sissoucat on August 4, 2013 at 10:10 AM · Report this
Furthermore: the owner of SPI Group, and furthermore Stoli, is *wanted* by the Russian government - Putin wants to throw him in jail so he can take the international distribution of Stoli BACK ! Don't any of you guys KNOW this ?
Posted by tijn2001 on August 2, 2013 at 4:13 PM · Report this
To "noaccount":

NO see, you are WRONG, and the problem is that there is such misinformation going around this community, no one seems to care anymore, we're just all about rhetoric and anger.

The owner of SPI Group is Yuri Sheffler. Yuri Sheffler was, yes, born in Russia. But he does NOT live in Russia. He is an EU citizen. I am not sure where he lives. but he DOES NOT live in Russia and he DOES NOT pay taxes to the Russian government.

See here:…

Stop believing Dan Savage's paranoia and Queer Nation and Act Up's nonsense! This is all driving us in the wrong direction.

We can do things like, give money to Amnesty International, and Russian LGBT organizations. Not mindlessly pour out bottles of vodka and engage in idiotic misleading boycotts that are incredibly misinformed.

I expect a lot more from you Dan Savage.
Posted by tijn2001 on August 2, 2013 at 4:12 PM · Report this
A gay athlete/visitor/media person will be killed and/or beaten up during the Olympics. The Russians will express shock and surprise and express puzzlement as to how such a thing could happen. Guaranteed. This is why I am not watching any coverage and boycotting any and all sponsors of this sh*tfest that I can.
Posted by Boycott this sh*tfest on August 2, 2013 at 11:48 AM · Report this
tijn2001, Stoli is not a living organism working for Stoli and making money for Stoli. It has an owner, who lives in Russia, pays taxes in Russia, and because of all his money, has a voice in Russia that he is not using to speak up. So yes, there is money going back to Russia, because Stoli's owner doesn't own a corporation and has the manufacturing process done in Latvia to keep his money buried under a tree in Latvia. He owns a corporation and has the manufacturing process done in Latvia to lower costs and increase profits, which he then stuffs into his pocket... in Russia.
Posted by noaccount on August 2, 2013 at 10:31 AM · Report this
Dan Savage, ACT UP, all of you: you are all uneducated MORONS.

Stoli is made in Latvia by a corporation based in Luxembourg.

How does the conversation not end there?

How is there anything else to talk about besides, it is not a Russian product, there is no money flowing back to Russia, done, end of story?

We should all be embarrassed for how silly and uneducated our community is looking right now.
Posted by tijn2001 on August 1, 2013 at 11:15 PM · Report this
Russian LGBT activists do not support the boycott. And Stoli is an LGBT ally. Not sure this is the right way to hit at the Russian government.
Posted by Brenda Cossman on August 1, 2013 at 8:08 AM · Report this
Ophian 35
Totally off topic, but the Slog Tip button is not working in my browser, and nothing else seems to be going on around here, and this is fantastic:

Chris Beck spent 20 years operating in secret behind enemy lines as an elite US Navy Seal. But the highly decorated serviceman was always hiding a deeper, personal secret - since early childhood, he felt he was a female born into a male body.…
Posted by Ophian on August 1, 2013 at 7:55 AM · Report this
Hi Dan....why stop at vodka? Why not boycott Russian opera singers and conductors who REFUSE to disassociate themselves from the regime (e.g. the conductor Gergiev who runs the Mariansky in St Petersburg and is big buddies with Putin, and conducts regularly in the US and the Met - where huge (HUGE) numbers of patrons are gay!). Or some of the singers - e.g. Netrebko - who could come out and support gay rights as many other singers do - most recently Joyce Di Donato. I think that any boycott needs to operate on many different levels - and Russian artists need to realise that their citizenship and support (silent or otherwise) of the regime in power comes at a price!!

Thanks for your activism Dan!

Tombear, Cologne, Germany
Posted by tombear999 on August 1, 2013 at 4:49 AM · Report this
The whole point is that whether they are Russian or not is irrelevant.

Stolichnaya has been a supporter of the LGBT community for years, if not decades. They have always stood by us.

They produced the Be Real documentary series about the gay community on their own dime, just to support us. They have spent money to fund dozens of LGBT groups around the world.

Is this how we repay them? By scapegoating them to suit our own political goals?

Shame on you, Mr. Savage. You are not an ally of the LGBT community. You are just pitting us against each other.
Posted by Sterling Ericsson on July 31, 2013 at 11:11 PM · Report this
So Stoli's not a Russian vodka, Eh?…
Posted by Erok on July 31, 2013 at 8:39 AM · Report this
lolorhone 31
@30: That was productive.
Posted by lolorhone on July 30, 2013 at 10:15 PM · Report this
Yep, still waiting for that rabble-rousing post from Mr. Savage calling on all good Americans to boycott Meyer's Rum and Blue Mountain Coffee. I'm sure it will come along any day now.
Posted by robotslave on July 30, 2013 at 9:35 PM · Report this
I'm thinking of relapsing just so I can boycott.
Posted by Dickens on July 30, 2013 at 2:39 PM · Report this
Let gay athletes and fans go to the olympics and the FIRST time one of them is beat up - and it will happen-the shit is going to hi the fan and everyone should leave. Putin wants to bring back the old Soviet Union under the guise of homophobic persecution and that's what he's going to get and the stupid fucking Russian people are going to realize they are screwed too late when their economy and world reputation goes in the dumper. We really don't need anything from that country anyway do we?
Posted by alisamc on July 30, 2013 at 2:32 PM · Report this
lolorhone 27
I'm with Ophian; I would love to see queer athletes make a visible stand at Sochi. That way, the enforcement of "homosexual propaganda" laws would be a nuclear-level PR nightmare instead of a wait-and see side issue. And even if the government punted on persecution at the Olympics, LGBT (and allied) participants would be there to agitate and expose on an international stage. Journalists interested in true acts of journalism (rather than the corporate stroke jobs that proliferate during global events like this) could apply pressure as well.
Posted by lolorhone on July 30, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
@7, take your illogical lectures elsewhere. Neither Israelis (Jews) nor Palestinians (Arabs) are a "race".
Posted by sarah70 on July 30, 2013 at 12:47 PM · Report this
ladycrim 25
'...the country's draconian new anti-LGBT policies "will not affect those attending or taking part in the games".'

Oh, WELL. That's okay, then. *eyeroll*

As a Jew whose ancestors fled Russia to avoid persecution, I agree that 'pogrom' is absolutely the right word for what's happening here. Different century, different group, same atrocities. Makes me wish I drank vodka just so I could boycott it. Definitely encouraging my friends to switch to Absolut!
Posted by ladycrim on July 30, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
Mr O - It appears that Mr Weir is taking this as incentive to return to competition. He can probably qualify if he's gifted a quadless Nationals.
Posted by vennominon on July 30, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Don't forget Piroshky Piroshky in Pike Place Market! Let's run them out of business. And don't believe their disinformation campaign that they're American, not Russian. Look at the top of their website: RUSSIAN bakery
Posted by Rock Quarry on July 30, 2013 at 11:59 AM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 22
18, maybe because you're not looking. In places where there is strong LGBT activism, Australia, UK, Canada, there is the boycott. And it's not "countries" that sign up, it's businesses & people.

And I'd like you to show which of these so-called countries you cite are worse than Russia and have passed laws against even mentioning it. Huh? I can think of places like Jamaica & Uganda, what others?

17, Did you read a *single* link in all of the many posts on Slog about just what is going on there? Why don't _you_ find out about the groups in Russia & tell us, instead of concern-trolling a few sentences.

I'm fucking pissed at your (& plenty others') stupid hand-wringing. It never got anyone anywhere. If we listened to folks like you, we'd still all be hiding in pre-stonewall bars.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on July 30, 2013 at 11:47 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 21

Hey LGBT's. OT. But what do people think about Under the Dome. One of the central stories is that of a same sex lesbian family with a teenage daughter. Both moms are professionals. And this is broadcast TV.

Free to watch for Amazon Prime users:…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on July 30, 2013 at 11:10 AM · Report this
"Well you proved one thing, you can find several white Americans to back up your boycott. Have you reached out to the Russian activists to see what they want, or are you just asserting your American privilege on them?"

From Simply Me.

Hey, Simply Me, could it be you are imposing your racist bigotry and hate in this issue ? With a statement that has nothing to do with this? Or are you one of those Russian trolls following every thing on the internet about this subject and trolling comment sections?

Oh they are out in full force on this one especially at The Guardian. One example is "Natashia" who comments on every thing that ANY THING has on this issue .

Nice try Simply Me, but it wont work.:)
Posted by My2foru on July 30, 2013 at 11:04 AM · Report this

Russian lawmaker wants ban on gay propaganda to be applied to Sochi Games

"Chairman of the St. Petersburg legislature's committee for legislation Vitaly Milonov, who is also the author of the city law banning gay propaganda, said the similar federal law should apply to the guests and athletes of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
"I haven't heard the government's commentaries, but I know that the government acts in compliance with Russian laws. If a law has been passed by parliament and signed by the president, the government has no right or powers to reverse it," Milonov told Interfax on Sunday on reports that the federal law banning homosexual propaganda will not be applied to foreign participants in the Sochi Olympics.
Sochi Olympics Related topic: Sochi Olympics
"Any normal athlete, or sport fan arrives to support his team and to watch sport events in their splendor, not to violate the laws of the hosting country," he said."

To read the rest,…
Posted by My2foru on July 30, 2013 at 10:52 AM · Report this
Unfortunately, I don't see many other countries signing up to boycott Russian products based on its mistreatment of the GLBT community. So many countries (and to some degree, the USA) are vestiges of homophobia -- some probably to a greater degree than Russia.
Posted by Patricia Kayden on July 30, 2013 at 10:49 AM · Report this
Simply Me 17
Well you proved one thing, you can find several white Americans to back up your boycott. Have you reached out to the Russian activists to see what they want, or are you just asserting your American privilege on them?
Posted by Simply Me on July 30, 2013 at 10:28 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 16
Not sure what the US strategic advantage of not pursuing a boycott is. Unlike say China, we don't seem to have an economic interest in Russia...whose economy other than oil has been declining such that they are experiencing radical population losses. However, their influence in Europe -- who needs their gas -- is great.

They are clearly no longer a superpower but basically a kind of Mobocracy run for people who want to evade international laws (spammers, virus writers, financial finaglers).

Again, although many don't seem to get the abstract linkage, the work that Germany is doing to gain energy independence through renewable and stored hydrogen is the best way for them to reduce Putin's influence.

So at this point, it's a matter of human rights violations. The only caveat one could come up with on that is, "stand in line" (behind the female mutilating, imprisoning, limb chopping nations that make up a good portion of the UN).
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on July 30, 2013 at 10:23 AM · Report this
the ball is rolling.....
Posted by kwodell on July 30, 2013 at 9:53 AM · Report this
Oh yes, and thank you Dan! You ROCK!
Posted by Erok on July 30, 2013 at 9:27 AM · Report this
It saddens my heart to see so many gay Seattleites choose to defend vodka/Stoli over the persecution of our Russian LGTB bothers and sisters. Then again, I shouldn't be surprised by the choices made by alcoholics!
Posted by Erok on July 30, 2013 at 9:25 AM · Report this
And while we're at it, let's look a little more closely at the oppression of gays closer to home, who's responsible, and their enablers:…
Posted by cheakamus on July 30, 2013 at 9:09 AM · Report this
Dan, you are right on target with this boycott and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I'd throw Russian caviar in the mix.
Posted by jeffy on July 30, 2013 at 8:30 AM · Report this
Obama is not boycotting the Olympics, why?
Posted by Fierce Advocate on July 30, 2013 at 8:23 AM · Report this
I would love to see athletes march in opening ceremonies with rainbow flags or armbands. Lets see if Russian authorities arrest them. NBC couldn't ignore that if they did.
Posted by sfguy12 on July 30, 2013 at 8:17 AM · Report this
There should be one of those Facebook profile pictures you can change yours to in support of the ANTI-LGBT RUSSIAN VODKA BOYCOTT. Maybe two bottles of vodka from LGBT friendly countries turned sideways to create an equals sign?
Posted by The fag on July 30, 2013 at 8:13 AM · Report this
This is great! And Caterpillar (per Signorile's article) will now be a joint boycott target of both advocates of gay rights and for Palestinian human rights against Israeli apartheid, defined by the UN as "inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them."

The Israeli army uses Caterpillar bulldozers to crush Palestinian homes and also people (sadly, a local human rights advocate, Rachel Corrie, was a victim).

Heck, Caterpillar is rotten to its employees anyway and should be boycotted for that also.…

Watch Jewish Voice for Peace and QuAIA (Queers Against Israeli Apartheid) in a local action against Israeli apartheid. The target is Soda Stream, an Israeli product made in a settlement in the Occupied Territories: Burst the Bubble - SodaStream action at Sur la Table video (2:30)
Posted by Linda J on July 30, 2013 at 7:40 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 6
Here's one thing. Hillary knows that the greater America's investment, the greater say we have. And the greater say we have, the more we can move them to less totalitarianism and more freedom. Russians will start to use as many ways it is possible to avoid a change in behavior towards gay people until the world reacts . Which is why we must encourage world organizations for human rights to keep up the pressure. And that means donating money to those that do.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 30, 2013 at 7:30 AM · Report this
Ophian 5
I'd rather see queer and allied athletes visibly at the games. The eyes of the globe will be on Russia when the games begin.

And I've got to say I'm disappointed in the IOC...not that I expected them to be getting out in front of this or anything, but still.
Posted by Ophian on July 30, 2013 at 7:30 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 4
Dan Savage, just think how few days ago you got this boycott rolling, and now look! Thank you SO MUCH for showing us -- not just pundits or activists, but us firmly lodged in the peanut gallery too -- such a damn good way to fight back.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on July 30, 2013 at 7:16 AM · Report this
I suppose something along the lines of the Sun City boycott might be in order.
Posted by Joel_are on July 30, 2013 at 6:59 AM · Report this
"Assurance from highest government levels that the country's draconian anti-XXXX laws will not affect those attending or take part in the games."

Worked great for Berlin 1936.
Posted by GiantPanda on July 30, 2013 at 6:54 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 1
And remember: using the word "pogrom" to describe what's happening in Russia today is completely accurate, and neither disrespects the Jewish victims 100 years ago, nor diminishes their suffering in any way.

A pogrom is a government led or encouraged riot against a minority group. The term may have been coined specifically to describe such anti-Jewish riots in the waning days of the Tsarist empire, but it wasn't the first or last time a government has done this.
Posted by Matt from Denver on July 30, 2013 at 6:47 AM · Report this

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